Monday, December 3, 2012

From December to December

This morning, as is my wont when I have a little free time, I checked the almanac to see who was born, and what had happened, on this date in history. I love this kind of thing - several years ago, I created a partially illustrated daily almanac on a web site, but that's another story. At any rate, this morning I checked the almanac on Wikipedia. And there it was - on this day in 1960, the musical Camelot opened at the Majestic theatre on Broadway.

Camelot- a name which, to folks of my age at least, evokes an entire era, as well as a presidency. And the Wiki on it is wrong. The First National Tour (which uses the original Broadway production's staging, sets, and costumes) originally starred Anne Jeffreys as Guinevere. I know, because I saw it in Philadelphia. Twice. It was the first live show I ever saw. I was either 11 or 12 at the time. One of my classes at school went on a field trip to see it. Some of my family went off to see it as well, and I was delighted to go a second time. I remember my aunt Mary being upset with the curtain calls because Guinevere was in the gray auto-de-fe gonna-be-burned-at-the-stake outfit in which we'd just seen her instead of any of the "prettier" outfits she'd worn in the show. I remember Ms. Jeffreys participation as I was fan of the Topper tv show in which she and her husband starred as the ghosts of Marion and George Kirby. I no longer recall who filled the other lead roles, except that I'm certain that Arthur Treacher was Pellinore.

Ms. Jeffireys performed the role for 6 months as a personal favor to Alan Lerner, and she was delightful in it. The second time I saw the show, there was an slightly unplanned incident. It occurred during Guinevere's song, "The Lusty Month of May". Among the company onstage were King Pellinore and his sheepdog. The dog sort of ad-libbed; he suddenly squatted and did his business. Ms. Jeffreys didn't miss a beat - she sang her next lines, "Whence this fragrance wafting through the air? What sweet feelings does its scent transmute? Whence this perfume floating ev'rywhere?", while looking askance at the dog and "Pelly", and holding her nose. The audience loved it.

Sadly, the three numbers from the original Broadway run which were performed on the Ed Sullivan show are not available on You Tube or any of the other streaming video sites. I'd love to have posted one or two here. I did find this short "making of" video which has a quick clip or two, though.

Camelot furthered my interest in musical theater, in show tunes, in collecting and listening to the then recent development of long playing record albums (the show's album was the top selling LP in the US for 60 weeks! - it was one of the first LP's I bought), and so on and so forth. I never realized what a huge influence it was on my life before. The fact that I can recall parts of the production I saw 50 years ago says a lot. Seeing live theater, professionally done (no disrespect to local theater companies intended, but it's not quite the same, you know) particularly the big splashy musicals, is one of the few things I miss from my years in New York and Boston. I was lucky to see as many shows (and operas) as I did. And who knows, now that I'm retired, maybe some day I'll be able to go and indulge myself again.

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